Ask the Expert…Mark Fehlman

Question: Why should I paint en plein air?

Answer: You’re Invited to the Best Party Ever!

Do you want to join the best party that you have been to in years?


This party includes fun, interesting, creative, and positive people. It is ongoing and will take place in interesting places, with people doing things that they don’t normally do. The “games” will get you to do things that could possibly be embarrassing and people will talk about it. You might even get written up in the local paper or national magazine for what you did. The best part is that you might even get a party prize for your antics.

This party is called plein air painting. Eric Rhoads, publisher of Plein Air magazine says “plein air painting is the new golf.” There is fun for painters of all talent levels at this party and you just need to do one thing—show up.

mf2I was an architect for over 30 years. I loved my work and thought that I would do it until I was an old man. There was a gallery two doors down from my office that I used to visit a couple of times a week to marvel at the works of art. It featured plein air based art. The owner taught classes, so I decided to try it.

Once I started, I was hooked. Within 5 years, I sold my successful practice to paint full-time. I have never had more fun, made more great friends, traveled to more exotic places, and sat and contemplated beauty, more than I have done as a painter.

The community of artists


Artists are very fun people. I always have fun on a painting trip with my fellow painters. They are interesting, adventurous, motivated and well educated. These are the type of friends that you want to have.

Are you good enough to play?

When I first started to paint outside, I was invited by artists who were much better than me. These were people whose work I admired. The “Great Artist’s Club” is not exclusive. I started to going to week long workshops which were a blast. The teachers, who are painting gods, are normal people, who are fun to have a drink with. Everyone is good enough to play this game.

You can do this anywhere!

mf4Wherever you go, you can paint what is around you. Our family went to Fiji when I was just starting out. I took my plein air setup and painted for two hours every morning. You look at a place differently when you try to capture it on canvas. On the plane over, I sketched people on the plane. I actually traded some of my paintings to the resort for the rental of diving equipment.

Join a group. Get involved.

There are a lot of painting teachers, groups and organizations where you can find artists at all levels. I used to go to Laguna Beach Invitational every fall to watch the top artists paint in the 3-hour Quick Draw and was amazed at their mastery. I joined the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association, LPAPA because I wanted in on the fun. The California Art Club is another organization that has lots of events for painting and exhibition each year. If you’re not in California, look for groups around you.

Subscribe to publications

There are plenty of good magazines like Plein Air, Southwest Art and American Art Collector that will get you into the world of art.

Participate in an event

mf5There are lots of local and national painting events. I started at the San Clemente Plein Air Festival. It is an open events with lots of artists. It was a lot of fun and I actually took a fourth place ribbon in the Quick Draw. I’m currently in Hawaii for the Maui Plein Air Invitational. This spring, my calendar is full. It is packed with events, travels with friends, and exhibitions. I am having more fun than I could have imagined. This party just keeps getting better.

I have been painting full time now for 10 years and identify myself as an artist and not an architect with a hobby. I like to jump in with all fours when I do something, but you do it your way. The world of painting is open to everyone including artists, collectors, enthusiasts and admirers of all ages. A good party needs all of these types to be a great party.

Mark Fehlman lives with his family in San Diego. He is a signature artist in LPAPA and an artist member of the California Art Club. You can see his work at



2 thoughts on “Ask the Expert…Mark Fehlman

  1. Thanks for the enthusiastic plein air article! Now that I am retired, I can’t wait to immerse myself in plein air painting, something I did only occasionally while I was working. Looking forward to painting with old friends and making new! You’ve inspired me!


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